Monday 28 June 2010

My Knight in Shining Armour

No - it wasn't one of these knights that rescued this damsel in distress! It was my son - yes really!

I would like to I thank my lovely readers here for all the sympathetic comments left regarding the loss of all my photos, scrapping files, etc, last week when my external hard drive failed. I'm keen to support local businesses and took it to a nearby company for their opinion (for which I had to pay £42), and was told the next day that the disc was "cooked" and nothing could be retrieved. So that was that I thought. One or two of you advised a second opinion but in the end my son was able to restore everything. There was a bit of incentive for him as he also had files stored on the drive, and that drive isn't fixed, but I bought a replacement yesterday and all files are now saved onto it. What a relief! I will be saving them to disc as a backup as soon as I can too.

The knights pictured above arrived here for our Medieval Festival & Country Show this weekend, along with their families and supporting peasants. We had a whole medieval village camped in the local playing fields and as I had volunteered to help out on one of the trade stands I was able to have a look round and watch the jousting and "burning" of Ruthin. A bit of history here - Owain Glyndwr, the last Welsh Prince of Wales, instigated a revolt against English rule c1400 and one of his first acts of rebellion was against Baron de Grey of Ruthin, with whom he was in dispute over land. On 16 September 1400 Owain burned Ruthin to the ground, reputedly leaving only the castle and a few other buildings standing. When I was a teenager we lived in one of these buildings for a few months and I have to say there were mysterious happenings....... but that's another story!

Friday 25 June 2010

Elderflower Cordial from the garden

Elderflower is my favourite drink in summer. Nothing is more refreshing when you are hot and thirsty. Its quite expensive to buy but simple to make at home. The elder is in flower right now and its easy to find as it grows like a weed in hedges and even on waste ground as well as down country lanes and in the garden. I didn't plant my elder - it just appeared.

The elderflower has a rather musky scent and the flowers themselves are tiny and of a perfect shape. They looked like frothy lace in my bowl. Don't forget to shake them gently after picking to dislodge any creatures hiding there. I had to rescue two little green beasties and a small spider before pouring on the sugar. If you tap the side of the bowl with a spoon anything alive seems to rush up to the rim, trying to escape.

To make about 2 pints of cordial, put about 15 large elderflower heads, 2 pounds/900gm sugar, one lemon cut into slices and an ounce and a half/40 gm citric acid (I got mine at the chemist) into a large heatproof bowl and stir in 18 fluid ounces/500ml boiling water to dissolve the sugar. Cover and leave in a cool place for 4 days, stirring occasionally. Taste to see if the cordial is strong enough, remembering that it will be diluted for drinking.

Then strain through a plastic or nylon sieve lined with a piece of muslin and pour into sterilized bottles. Seal and keep in a cool, dark, dry place. Its ready to drink right away and will keep for ages. Drink chilled, diluted with water or dry white wine or add to fruit puddings. I've used it instead of fruit juice in my favourite fruitcake recipe too.

This is another recipe from the book mentioned in my Freezer Jam post yesterday. Its a beautiful book full of gorgeous photos and simple recipes that have never failed me. If you like preserving - either from your own produce or from bought fruit and veg, its worth seeking out a copy. I see a couple on ebay right now.

Freezer Strawberry Jam

What about a second post today! I made some freezer jam this morning as I'd grabbed three punnets of British strawberries reduced to 50p each at our local Co-op last night! I try to make it every season as there's often lots of reduced fruit around at this time of year. Its so delicious, and such an easy recipe, I thought I'd pass it on to you all. Its taken from a book I bought many years ago (in 1995 I think as that's when it was published) titled Sensational Preserves by Hilaire Walden.

All you do is crush about 2 pounds (900 gms) strawberries in a non-metallic bowl with a wooden spoon or masher. Stir in 1 pound of jam/preserving sugar (sugar with pectin), then cover and place in your oven preheated to its lowest setting until the strawberries are warm but not hot. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for an hour, stirring occasionally until the sugar has disolved. After that stir in the juice of one lemon and pack into small freezer-proof containers, leaving plenty of room for the jam to expand on freezing. Seal the containers and leave to stand for 6 hours at room temperature, then refrigerate for 24-48 hours until jellied. After this store in the freezer.
The jam is more of a sauce than a proper jam - its very soft set. However it is absolutely delicious on ice cream or in yogurt as well as on toast or crumpets /muffins. It has the lovely fresh flavour of early summer so defrosting it in the middle of winter is a sure cure for the winter blues. It can be frozen for up to 6 months but once thawed must be kept in the fridge and used within 2-3 days. Therefore in order not to waste a single teaspoon its best to use small containers. You can also make Raspberry Freezer Jam but I haven't tried it as there never seem to be enough raspberries either in the garden - as we've eaten them - or in the supermarket at a cheap enough price.

I hope you'll try making this as its maximum pleasure for minimum effort! I'm intending to make another favourite tomorrow morning, elderflower cordial, as there are lots of flowers out at the bottom of the garden. Watch this space for the recipe.

Birthday Mouse

It was a certain little person's 4th birthday yesterday and I made her this little felt mouse in his cosy bed. I found the instructions here at Lynn's lovely Molly Chicken blog - such a shame she seems to have given up blogging as she has some wonderful inspiration there.

Here's the birthday girl modelling her new dress-up poppits necklace! Does anyone remember poppits - there was a real fashion for them in the early 60s. Found a photo of them here and of course, as with anything from the 60s, they are collectable now.

I'm really enjoying using felt again after quite forgetting it over the last couple of years. I bought half a dozen 100% wool felt pieces recently and finding how gorgeous it is to work with (it cuts beautifully with dies in my Cuttlebug too) has encouraged me to get out my stash again. However I've a mountain of old acrylic felt to use before I can buy more lovely stuff.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Mousey Sketch 3

I've gone with Lisa this week and chosen to decorate a notebook for my entry to the third Waltzing Mouse Sketch Challenge. I've a few reliable cake and biscuit recipes that I use over and over but they are all in different cook books and I can never remember which one. So I thought I would start a project and collect them in this little notebook. I'm going to decorate the pages with stamps and hand write the recipes - I could even print out photos of my efforts to illustrate the recipes - that's the theory anyway. I've used my Pic-nic Patterns and Afternoon Tea stamp sets. The notebook was already covered in lovely green handmade paper and took the Distress Ink I used easily.

I've had a bit of a trauma the past couple of days - my external hard drive has failed and I've lost two years worth of photos, digital scrapping files, videos, scrapbook pages, etc - I've been told nothing is recoverable! And yesterday my Google account was hacked and temporarily disabled - I found out late last night that some horrible people had tried to send pornography to all my contacts! I think Google had intercepted and deleted the link straight away but if anyone did find something horrible in their inbox I am mortified and do apologise! I don't think anything did get through however and it was a bit of a fiddle getting my email and blog back, but all seems back to normal now thank goodness!

Friday 18 June 2010

Gardeners World Live at the NEC

My sister and I had a good day out on Wednesday when we visited the Gardeners' World Live exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham - especially as the ticket also included entry to the Good Food Show with all its free sampling! This was my favourite garden - the Girl Guides Centenary garden called "Stick in Time". A gorgeous planting of red field poppies, yellow corn marigolds and blue cornflowers designed by a Ranger Unit leader from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Carol Adams. The girls had written their thoughts about being Brownies and Guides on sticks which were placed in the beds of wild flowers they had grown from seed. It was a shame that we were not allowed to walk through the garden to read what was written on the sticks. How I'd love to have my wild patch looking as glorious as this!

Here's a few more things I liked: this clematis grown in a large container - great idea; Dibleys Nurseries' stand - our local nursery famous for winning 21 gold medals at Chelsea with their Streptocarpus plants; watching a snippet of Gardeners World being filmed - these little dolls were supposed to be the presenters I think; traditional skeps being made on the Honey Bees stand; and this lovely display with its Peony Black poppies - I love poppies and bought a packet of seeds so you may even see them here in a few weeks if I'm successful with my sowing.

I could add many more photos but I think this is enough before you start getting bored. I would have created a scrapbook page but my hard drive has crashed so I can't get at my scrapping files. Its in the freezer at the moment..... don't know if that will work but I can't think of anything else to do at the moment - I'll be weeping if I've lost all my photos!

Thursday 17 June 2010

Waltzing Mouse Hop Sketching!

Today's the day of the Waltzing Mouse blog hop - but also the closing day of the second Waltzing Mouse sketch challenge - what on earth are they trying to do to us! So much pressure!! I know I don't NEED to participate but I did want to keep up with my two favourite challenge blogs. It can't be too difficult to make two cards a week you may say, but I've always been a person who will ALWAYS put off till tomorrow what I COULD do today! And I did...... and I've just finished my card..... and its almost dark....... so I had to photograph it in artificial light :o( However, I have made it fit both the challenge (a masculine card) and the sketch.

I started off with an idea I liked, however when I'd made up all the different elements of the card I hated it. But now its all put together I've ended up rather liking it again. I know the colours are weird but I think they give the whole rather a Japanese feel. I'm afraid I had to add the little fish with a non-WMS stamp to make it suitable for my recipient - I hope this doesn't disqualify me! I made it for a certain great-nephew of mine to give to his Dad, who has recently started taking him fishing.

Please accept my apologies for the absolutely atrocious photograph!

Monday 14 June 2010

Last minute challenge

Just a quick post to add my card to the A Passion for Papertrey challenge, which ends in about 25 minutes!! I'm very last minute as I've found this theme really difficult - use chipboard in a project. I don't have any chipboard in my stash as I've never been keen on it and don't really know what to do with it. However I wondered whether I could die cut a piece of chipboard recycled from some packaging. My Cuttlebug just about managed it, though the pieces needed tidying up with scissors, and then my card idea was born. In fact this is a very up-cycled project as all the cardstock here has been saved from the packaging of various purchases. The only stamp used - apart from the sentiment - is my beloved Background Basics Text Style.

I took my photos outside the back door as the light is best there in the early part of the day. My card is posed on top of the coal shed where I feed my birds in a big terracotta flowerpot and I noticed the pair of jackdaws that visit have brought someone new with them today - he must be one of their chicks as he hasn't learned to be frightened of the back door opening yet! I feel some stalking with my camera is warranted - watch this space....

Edit: here's the baby jackdaw - not a good photo yet as I took it through the window - and I forgot to move the washing line! This lovely Woodpigeon decided to pose too so I snapped him up. Isn't he handsome!

Saturday 12 June 2010


Well the weekend is here but its certainly not "Flaming June". We had a mini heatwave in May though and I just had to get to the coast again. Llandudno is a great shopping centre (there's an excellent craft store and lots of charity shops) and there's the added appeal of the beautiful unspoiled Victorian promenade and beach. What more could you want - shopping and beach combing in one afternoon. And we had a yummy afternoon tea at M&S - just look at these cute gingerbread men that came with our tea. I couldn't resist snapping them before they were scoffed. They just reminded me of my Oven Fresh Gingerbread Joy stamp set (from Waltzing Mouse Stamps) used to decorate this little box made up from the Rubber Band Box template. I made it for a challenge but didn't get round to entering it. Its just the right size for giving a few of those little ginger- bread men. Cute!

Thursday 10 June 2010

Butterfly Mouse Sketch Challenge

Anyone who reads my blog will know I have rather an obsession with the butterflies in my garden. I spend huge amounts of time stalking them with my camera. So I thought I would have a butterfly theme for the very first Waltzing Mouse sketch challenge - a brand new challenge blog you will find here. My butterflies have been created from vellum, Earthangel's wings and the butterfly body stamp Claire very cleverly included with this set.

I don't think I'm very good with sketches! I don't do them very often and find it quite hard to follow one - it has taken me three days to be happy with this card and its passed through quite a few versions in that time!

I created this butterfly digital scrapbook page some time ago when I was feeling really guilty one day about the time I had wasted chasing butterflies when I should have been weeding!

Monday 7 June 2010

Mum's Birthday

Its Mum's 86th birthday today, though we actually celebrated yesterday so that we could all go out for lunch together. Any such family occasion is an opportunity to reminisce and of course we did. For a long time I tried to get Mum to write down her memories and even bought her one or two of those books meant for recording life stories and memories for the future - but she never filled them in and so I took to keeping a notebook in my bag and writing things down whenever Mum (or any one of us) remembered something that it would be sad to forget for ever. I did this page from one such memory. During WW2 Mum and her parents lived in Warrington and her Dad worked in the American base Burtonwood. Like many other girls she started courting a GI and they became engaged but in the end Mum just couldn't leave her parents (she was an only child) to live in the US and so they decided to part. She - and I - often wonder what happened to Jim Campbell. We do know he married and was living on Staten Island after the war. Its funny to think that as a war bride by now she would have been living in the US for 65 years! What a difficult decision she had to make all those years ago.

Anyway, Mum really liked the little shawl I knitted for her birthday gift - so that was a success. I packaged it rolled up inside this tube - can you guess what it is! I've been wanting to up-cycle a Pringles tube for ages and was pleased that the shawl fitted perfectly inside. The heart label is from the Waltzing Mouse 'Seasons of Love' stamp set which co-ordinates with Spellbinders Heart and Scallop Heart die sets.

NB: If you read the memory on my digi- page and wonder about "Hiya Red" - Mum was a beautiful redhead!


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